Dang Kids And Their New-Fangled Gizmos

August 11, 2013

We live in an amazing time.
Really, we do.
There’s a new technological marvel every week.
For once we’re discovering new species quicker than known ones are going extinct.
We can do things on computers that we never dreamed of doing as little as ten years ago.
We should be living Science-Fiction right now.
Instead, New York State just released test scores from students showing poor grammar and math skills.
Pardon my French as I think about this for a minute and say “What the fuck?!?”

One would think that with all of these technologically advanced resources readily available that we’d be getting collectively smarter.
Well, if you thought that, then you’re apparently wrong.
Somehow our kids are getting dumber.

What?
Did I just hear somebody go and blame video games?
Really?
People are still singing that worn out old tune?
If you really want to blame video games go and protest something with the Westboro Baptist Church, because you’re just about as credible as they are.
Video games help fine tune our minds.
They excel at increasing hand eye coordination.
They regulalry exercise and strengthen our cognitive reasoning.
They develop our problem solving skills.
Although, video game use is at an all time high, our kids are still becoming dumb.

Now, this may not be the correct answer, but I have a feeling that I might be on to something here.
Follow me on this one.
Social Media is killing our brain cells quicker than arsenic laced moonshine.
Go ahead, frown, tell me I’m full of it.
I know that you’re reading this on a computer, a tablet, an e-reader, a phone, etc…
Just do me a favor and hear me out.
The scientists at the Cern Institute used social media long before it ever had a name.
They used it to keep in touch with each other and share their advancements without having to leave their labs and stop working.
College students used their computers to research work as well as keep in touch with family, friends, other students, and their teachers.
Businesses used it to update employees, reach out to consumers, cut down on paper, and make work easier.
These things were all improvements and beneficial.
With the advent of pages like MySpace and Facebook social media culminated in what appeared to be its ultimate role, a tool for bringing the world together.
It worked, too.
But something changed…and I don’t just mean the constantly changing faces of MySpace and Facebook as they keep trying to improve something that we don’t want improved.
Facebook, Google, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram, and a score of others, made life easier.
We were finding people that we hadn’t talked to in years.
Meeting new people that we might have never spoken to before.
We were sharing our lives with the world, and it only took a handful of keystrokes.
It became easy.
That’s where I think that the problem started.

I blame Apple for the “Easy Revolution”
The iMac (or, as I liked to call it, the “Ugly Jellybean”) suddenly made the internet user friendly.
Before it, in order to use the internet you had to learn a little DOS, some http, how to play with your emacs.
By the time that you finally able to talk to real people you had earned it.
Then the iMac comes along and makes it as easy as plugging in and pushing a button.
So many people out there today know absolutely nothing about the technology they use.
That’s sad, really.
I have found that a little knowledge fosters respect for the item being used.
It makes you appreciate it a little more.
Instead, we may have made things too easy.

That easiness seems to have nurtured a growing laziness.
Kids don’t need to learn math skills when they have calculators built into their systems.
If they don’t know how to use the calculator they can always google it, or post a question to Yahoo Answers and let somebody else do the leg work.
While Twitter was meant to streamline information sharing by encouraging people to be concise and to the point by only allowing posts of 142 spaces, instead people started abbreviating words to get their point across.
This mimicked “Text Speak” because the formats were so similar.
Text Speak was a necessary evil.
Many people still pay for a limited amount of texts each month.
So, space is a commodity, and saving text space is frugal.
However, while saving money, Text Speak spread to other areas, not just Twitter (where it did make a certain amount of sense)
Text speak migrated to places like MySpace and Facebook, despite the larger allowances they granted for words.
When you combined this with people that already had problems with spelling and grammar, well, let’s just say it was like throwing oil on to the fire.
The problem only spread.
Facebook, in their efforts to be both pleasing and encouraging, made matters worse with the “Like” button.
It’s so much easier to hit “Like” than it is to actually type up thoughts on a status.
With actual responses one can tell if people agree with them, are offering support, or even just bullshitting them.
That damn “Like” button makes it seem like everyone agrees with you.
It does sound good, right?
What can be wrong with that.
It does seem relatively harmless, until a young skank goes all skankilicious in her status and gets 57 “Likes”.
That only keeps encouraging her to post more and more of the same deteritus (That means garbage, waste, refuse, trash, for all of you that have internet induced poor vocabulary).
It doesn’t just encourage the whores, it encourages anyone that’s negative.
It also encourages the idiots to keep spreading their idiocy.
Plus, it does also encourage people to share FAR too much about their lives.
It’s far too easy for any of us to fall into these traps.
And it seems like our kids are diving head first into these traps.

This is one of those times that we need to teach by example.
Many adults on Facebook have their kids, nieces, nephews, young cousins, or even friends’ kids on their pages.
Use Spell check.
Use Dictionary.com
Use Thesaurus.com
Put them right into your Favotites to make it a little easier.
Then show the kids how to use them.
Correct the kids (any of them, yours, your siblings’, and your friends’ kids) when they goof up.
Send the corrections in messages at first.
If they’re not more careful, do it right in the comment.
Embarassment is a great motivator at times.
Post more than just pictures.
I know it’s easy to post pictures and jokes.
They make you laugh, they make others laugh, and that’s all good.
Still, post something more than a canned statement.
Be real, be a person.
Share your thoughts, encourage others, reach out without compromising your intelligence ot integrity.
Let the kids learn that way.
Right now they’re mainly learning from each other.
We see how that’s going.

Remember this sage little bit from Two Broke Girls:
“Twitter is stupid, and Instagram is Twittwe for people that can’t read.”

Think about what that says about our information age.


Time To Say Goodbye To An Old Friend

June 6, 2013

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We all have that one bar that we remember from when we first became legal to drink (or sometimes even a little before we “technically” became legal… not that I’m admitting to anything mind you)
My first Bar was simply called “The Bar”.
That’s it.
Some people called it Joey’s.
Others called it The Troy Bar.
I just stuck with The Bar.
It was so much more fun in conversations.
I always enjoyed the quizzical looks as people worked their way out of a “Who’s on first” type conversation.

I made many friends there.
I created scores of memories.
No matter how old I become I will always smile when I think of The Bar.

Although, that’s not as easy today.
After about 18 years of doing business at the corner of 118th st and 2nd ave (Rte 4) ave in Lansingburgh (North Troy) is closing its doors this Saturday, June 8th.

Many people might argue that a bar closing down for good is no reason to feel a bit of loss.
It is though.
Having your first legal drink has become a rite of passage.
That’s usually the first bar related memory.
Many more usually follow.
Sure, some of you are thinking that those memories involve bar fights and hangovers.
That tends to be true more for the people that have a predisposition towards bad decisions.
Those memories reflect more on the person than the place where the memories originated.
A sizable percentage of my good memories happened there.
Those memories aren’t filled with empty bottles and flaming shots.
Instead, they’re filled with friends, music, and fun.
A good bar is really just a focus point for people to come together and enjoy themselves.
This particular bar had nearly two decades of that.
So many games of pools and darts.
Think of how many people hooked up there in that time.
And even how many remembered it the next day and continued to see their new found friend.

So, when a bar closes its doors there is a reason to get a little misty.
It’s a chance to reflect on our own pasts and sift through some of the better memories.
Dwell on the fun.
Relive the adventures.
Tell the embarrassing tales.
Remember it the way you would the passing of a friend.

I’ll be stopping in tomorrow (Friday) night to say goodbye.
Hopefully I’ll see some of you there too.
let’s make an Irish Wake of it.
Send the old watering hole out in style.


Fact: Easter Bunny Pictures Are Cuter Than Teenage Mob Pictures

March 31, 2013

In the past few years personal safety has become more of an issue than it has ever been in our lifetimes.
This is true where ever you go.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a big city or a small town.
There always seems to be something devious hiding in the shadows waiting for us to drop our guards.
The problem with the creatures in the shadows is that once you shine some light on them they look just like you and me.
People are the only real monsters out there.
That’s why we depend on the police so much.
They’re trained to protect us from the monsters that we have trouble recognizing.

Last night I was sitting in the living room, playing a game.
My daughter was playing Club Penguin on the laptop.
It was nice enough outside last night to justify having the windows open.
I’ve always enjoyed the sounds of the city.
Traffic rolling along, the chatter of people on their way to various destinations, the squeals and hisses of a bus, hinking horns, and the occasional cry of a siren are a comforting music to those of use that grew up in a city.
However, at one point a low buzz started as a background to the ever present rhythms and continued to grow.
It became a murmur, then a buzz, and eventually a rumble.
It was scores of voices passing by the house.
At first the teens’ voices were what you’d expect, exd laughter.cited words flying back and forth punctuated by giggles and laughter.
Also welcome noises, usually.

It didn’t take too long for the pleasant thrum to change.
Words took on an edge.
The tone became darker.
There was less laughing, and not all of that was pleasant anymore.
I got up and went out to the porch to see what was going on.
My eyes were first drawn to the lights of the police cars, six of them, creeping down Fifth Avenue.
Then I saw the tenagers, more than a hundred of them on the block I was at.
It was hard to tell how many had already past, and harder to tell where they ended as I looked up the street.
My daughter was amused and in awe looking at all of those kids.
Amazed at how many police cars kept on coming.
As the police cars came to a stop I counted thirteen of them in the procession.
Another on was going up one of the side streets, and I could see the glows of car mounted spotlights scanning back and forth in the alley and beyond that on sixth ave.

I could hear some cries from further up the street.
From adults, angry at the behavior of the teens.
The youths had become rowdy.
They were threatening adults,and some had even damaged cars with crowbars.
One group was preventing a car from pulling out of its driveway up the street.

While all of this was going on, despite the amount of police cars evident, I didn’t see one officer get out of their car to try to control them.
They merely watched from the safety of their cars, “escorting” the hooligans on their journey, leaving the citizens they are sworn to protect to fend for themselves.

This all started at Germania Hall, a well known Banquet house in North Troy that has been around for generations.
Apparently the police had to be called to handle a sweet sixteen party that had gotten violently out of control.
Now, considering the fact that there was reportedly over 300 kids in attendance, the police should have contained them on the premises and started contacting parents.
Instead they released the group of angry and violent teenagers back into the street to spread the havoc which had just started.

This was definitely a failure on the part of the police.
Another local community, Colonie, has had problems with teenage hoards roaming the streets victimizing people and damaging property.
Their police (who just happen to be the highest paid police force in the state) also just follow the kids around.
It’s not a tactic that has proven effective yet.
Innocent people keep paying for this failure of government.
This type of treatment actually empowers the group.
It makes them feel important.
They’re receiving all of this attention.
It makes them feel big.
When you add Mob Mentality to the picture coupled with the inaction of Law Enforcement they start to feel invincible.
That’s a dangerous formula.

To top things off, the local media has neglected this story.
Despite it’s being all over the scanners and social media.
None of them even so much as posted a quip saying that they were working on finding out what had happened.
They only seem to have come to action after being called out on their various Facebook pages for not covering the story.

It’s important for the Media to cover events like this.
The events of last night may have only affected several hundred people, which is a drop in the bucket for a city the size of Troy, but those people were still failed by the Police.
Since its creation one of the primary responsibilities of the media has been to point out the spots where the government has failed to live up to fulfill its duties.
Last night both our protectors and voices failed us.

Today we speak for ourselves.
With enough of us, we can be heard.
I hope enough people speak up so that something like this doesn’t happen again.
If it does, we may not be so lucky, and people may get hurt, not just property.


A Troy I’d Like To See

February 24, 2013

When David Grandeau finally left office as City Manager in 1995, Troy was in dire straits.
Our crime rate was terrible, and the city looked like a virtual ghost town.
Most of the store fronts of the once thriving downtown were empty.
Bars were even beginning to fail.
You may not realize how bad that is.
When times get rough the two groups that see a rise in attendance are churches and bars.
Once bars start failing, times are beyond rough.

When Mark Pattison took over, he clearly had his work cut out for him.
Although he was criticized often by the media, it was because he wouldn’t talk to them.
All he was there for was the city, not the publicity.
After a lot of hard work, tough decisions, and help from people that wanted to see Troy prosper again, we started to rise again.
Thanks to the efforts of many people since then, including Pattison, Hedley, Tutunjian, Rosamilia (the current mayor), Frank LaPosta, Carmella Mantello, Mike Picarill0 (aka “Pickles”), James Gordon, Kevin McGrath, Mark McGrath, Bill Miller (RIP), Vito Ciccarelli, Billie-Jean Greene, Peggy Kownack, Aliz Koletas, Rev. Willie, the staff of the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District, and numerous others, Troy has continued to grow.

Troy still has a long way to go.
We’re looking great again, but we are far from the Jewel Of The Hudson that we used to be.
People at one point flocked to Troy for shopping, music, horse races, professional baseball, and horse racing.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever achieve quite that same line-up of activities, we can still grow in unique ways.

One of our biggest problems is that we consider Troy to be a small city.
It’s easy to understand why.
We have a close proximity to a few cities that are better known and much larger.
Being so close to places like New York City and Boston easily make us feel smaller.
We have to get over that.
Troy is actually bigger than many states’ largest cities.
Despite the fact that we aren’t close to NY’s biggest.
Albany and Schenectady are also big cities.
Together we create an impressive Metropolitan region.

Once we see that, we can truly appreciate our potential, and finally be ready to grow.

Our misleading self-image aside, there’s more that I’d like to see happen for Troy.
My biggest hope is that we can redraw the patrol zones for the Troy Police Department and add more officers.
We’ve been having a crushing time, as of late, with criminal activity.
The current plan just isn’t working.
The North Lansingburgh Neighborhood Watch has been telling every city official that they can about the changes that need to be made.
Regardless of how strong a voice that group has, they only represent a fraction of the total population.
If you aren’t a fan of the crime, you should be letting the City Council know.
They represent you, and if you aren’t telling them what you want, they can’t help.
Personally, I hope that they make the necessary changes.
I’d love to be able to let my child go out and play without having to worry about her safety every second.

The construction of Bomber’s Troy on Federal and King, as well as the development of the building next to it, already play into my next hope.
Troy’s social scene is still growing.
Troy used to have an amazing social scene.
The streets and sidewalks used to be packed all week long, not just during special occasions.
I love walking around Downtown and appreciating the business and the architecture.
We do have a fantastic downtown, and it’s only getting better.
The best part is that the change is across the board.
We have small cozy and classy establishments (like the Charles F Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar), laid back yet upscale (like Daisy Bakers), right down to the average joe type of place (The Brown Bag and Muddaddy Flats).
Downtown Troy is a great place to go wandering on the weekends.
You can easily do it multiple weekends in a row and not do the same thing twice.
There are still open store fronts that need filling.
I’m confident that they will become occupied, increasing the diversity.
My biggest hope is that more of us start to appreciate it and go downtown more often, supporting local businesses, and enriching our city.

CFL Conf Wine Bar
We need more live music again.
I miss all of the shows at Revolution Hall.
Or catching local groups at Positively Fourth St (Later as P4).
Heck, I remember when I was 20, and the Holiday Inn was still on 6th where the RPI student housing is now.
The bar there was where I saw Ernie Williams and the Wildcats for the first time.
It left a mark on me.
That’s when I first started to appreciate the musical venues in Troy.
So, I reiterate, we need more live music again.
Somebody needs to make this happen.
And with the decline in Albany’s nightlife, now is the time to do it

RevolutionHallSign03

Back when I used to work the door at a local bar I had several patrons that would take the bus to come join us.
Some people would snicker at the thought of these patrons not having a car or a ride.
What I knew, that they didn’t, was that several did have cars.
They were drinking responsibly.
Unfortunately, if they stayed after midnight they needed to take a cab home, or find someone to drive them.
Considering the amount of people we have living in the Capitol Region, we should have a much better transit system.
Sure, they’ve broken down some existing runs into multiple parts to make sure they run on time.
BUT, that makes using public transportation even more expensive because that’s more buses that riders have to pay for.
Not to mention the fact that CDTA has cut a number of runs that made transit to outlying areas easier.
We need public transportation that covers all of the region and does it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We do have enough businesses and places of work open around the clock to justify such a change.
As well as the high probability that if transportation were more readily available, more businesses would increase their open hours to accommodate extra traffic.
I also think that a rail system is something our area would greatly benefit from.
Something that doesn’t just cover Albany, Troy, and Schenectady, but extends to Saratoga, Mechanicville, Clifton Park, and even Lake George.
Making it that much easier to travel quickly would improve business throughout the region.

Lastly (for now), what I’d really love to see for Troy is a new home for City Hall.
Someplace that’s uniquely Troy, and stands apart from the surrounding edifices.
Someplace where our council can share offices, our various departments can work together, where our Mayor has easy access to everyone that he/she needs to have access to, with room for a large enough council chamber to be inviting enough for citizens to come and join in the running of their local government.
It would also be great to have an active and eager chamber of commerce there to bolster Troy’s PR.
We live in a great city, we should let everyone know about it.


And Just When You Were Thinking That We Had Forgotten What Winter Was Again…

January 16, 2013

I have to admit it, the view outside of my bedroom window right after a snowfall is quite beautiful.
There’s about 3 pine trees, and several deciduous trees mixed together in a thick, towering, row.
That pristine white snow glimmering in the dusky light filtered through thick grey clouds is set off by the contrast of the green pine boughs or brown branches peeking out from under the edges of the snow.
A very calming sight, I could look at it for hours…but any attempt to do so would slip me back into a pleasant little sleep.

This is a very different scene than we had just twenty-four hours ago.
Yesterday it was cool and sunny at this time.
We had just finished up the January thaw.
The Thaw is what has my attention today.
See, I do love the January Thaw.
For those of you from different regions, or even countries, that are unfamiliar with it, the January Thaw is a period of anywhere from four to fourteen days (approximately) where we locally achieve higher than usual temperatures for the winter, and, as the name suggests, the snow melts.
The grass gets muddy, the concrete and asphalt dry.
Some people even put shorts on when they go out.
(Those people usually end up sick a week later too…)

It’s the break we usually need.
Winter in Mid-state New York, and the Northeast in general, can be a rough time.
We get snow storms, sleet, freezing rain, blizzards, ice-storms, etc.
And often before Thanksgiving.
It’s nice to have a week in the middle that’s a break from all of the inclement weather.
It helps us to recharge, and to get ready for February.

What I do hate about The Thaw is something simple.
The January Thaw is one giant tease.
There, I said it.

Once that snow melts and those temperatures rise, so do our moods.
Naturally, thoughts shift to Springtime.
Hopes are raised.
You start making plans in your head.
Each warmish sunny day that passes just makes the list longer.

And then you wake up to see snow on the trees behind your house.

Well played, Winter, you sadistic bastard.

So, now, here we are again, buried in the reality of winter.
Thoughts of sunshine and budding blossoms shattered by falling icicles.
We’ll have to wait for March to arrive before we start to thaw out again…if we’re lucky.

All we can do is bundle up, put on some hot cocoa, and send the kids out armed with gloves and sleds, while we set back on the couch to watch a little Netflix.
At least Winter isn’t without its own little pleasures.


The Memories Remain

January 15, 2013

We lost someone in my family back in December.
It wasn’t a surprise.
They’d known it was coming for a long time.
That didn’t mean that there wasn’t pain and a sense of loss when she passed on.
Death is never easy, at least not for the survivors.
You’re left with an empty spot inside, and a phantom pain that keeps trying to fill it.

After having lost someone else very close to me a few years ago, I’ve been doing my damnedest to avoid death at all costs.
I’m not pleased with death at all.
Death is greedy.
All it does is take, take, take, and it never gives anything back.
(Please don’t reply with the ‘circle of life’ rhetoric, telling me that they return to the Earth whence they came. That just means that death is a litterbug too, leaving nature and man to pick up after it)

When I found out that her end was drawing near my immediate and stubbornly held reaction was that she would beat it.
She’d done it before and would do it again.
I kept telling myself that, no matter how much worse it got.
And it didn’t get better.

She was adamant about one thing; no funeral or wake.
She didn’t want people to be sad, all she wanted was a party.
Not sad…that’s a tall order.
A party, however, that was doable.
That party was this past weekend.
Over 400 people showed up to say goodbye to her.
It was amazing to see that kind of outpouring for one person.

I had been waiting for this event as a piece of closure.
Being part of the laughter and tears made me realize something.
It’s not about closure.
Not at all.
That part of our lives isn’t over, we’re just merely in transition.
We’ll have to adjust to not seeing her or talking to her.
She’ll still be part of our lives, in memories and in stories.
We’ll all be able to carry that with us for the rest of our days.
Until it’s time for our memories and stories to be shared.
And, maybe, just maybe, some of those stories will have her in them as well.


Good Starts Always Make The Trip A Little Easier

January 9, 2013

I know that this post is a week late, but it’s been a busy year so far.
It’s been Good busy, though.
I’m willing to bet that’s because 2013 got off to a good start.

Like many people, I went out to a party on New Year’s Eve.
I hadn’t gone out for it in a few years, and was happy that I did.
Ringing in the New Year’s with people I cared about was definitely the right way to go.
I ha a great time, and the good mood carried me on for a while.
Now, also like many people on New Year’s Eve the celebrating also involved drinking….lots of drinking.
However, I was prepared for that eventuality.
I made plans for a responsible ride home.
Which is actually very easy on New Year’s.

For years I was a bouncer, and I made calls to AAA, Cab Companies (Using the Netter’s Fund), and even Martin Harding & Mazzotti.
This year I found out about Rensselaer County’s Safe Ride Program, thanks to Troy City Councilman Jim Gordon.
He posted about it in his blog According To Jim (a great read for anyone interested in Troy)

http://accordingtojimintroy.blogspot.com/

And he shared the link all over the place.

I decided to give the Safe Ride program a try this year.
I’m glad that I chose them instead of the alternatives.
When they arrived for me at two am, they came to the door of the house and knocked rather than honking the horn out front like everyone else did.
The vehicle which was sent for me was a county van, and it was driven by two Rensselaer County Sheriffs.
It wasn’t awkward at all.
As a matter of fact, both Sheriffs were extremely good humored.
The ride back to my place was quite pleasant.
Next year, should I go out again, I’ll definitely be using the Safe Ride Program, and recommending it to others.


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